Saturday, August 23, 2008

More Political Musings

Ok, so I'm still glued to CNN and MSNBC. One thing that I feel is potentially... problematic... is that everybody keeps comparing Biden to McCain. You know, because they're peers. It's just Biden isn't actually running against McCain. It probably doesn't help that Obama flubbed and nearly introduced Biden as "the next president... er... vice president" in his speech this afternoon. Woops. I'm hoping that this stops once McCain picks a running mate.

I have to say, I'm wondering, though, whether McCain would (or could) choose a woman for a running mate (I'm thinking of a great article in Elle that talked about how many women are in McCain's inner circle and support him, in spite of his record on "women's" issues, and also that every pundit I've seen speaking for McCain today has been some sort of "minority" - woman (a few different women actually), African-American, Latino - and I'm wondering what that would do to Obama's chances. Is it possible that McCain would make such a move (a) and if he did, would he come out as the more "progressive" seeming candidate (b)? One thing is that a woman wouldn't be as tall as Mitt Romney, so they might actually look "right" together.... as long as she looked kind of like a man and all and couldn't be spun as "shrill" and "inexperienced." According to the NYT projections, there are no ladies on the list. But if he chose a woman running-mate, with the right chops, what would that do to, say, Ohio, where many of my oldest friends and where my working-class-historically-pro-union-democrat family lives? Where my Reagan democrat father and stepmother live? You know, all of those people who don't trust Barack Obama (because he's black- shh! we're racist even though we know it's wrong!) The way Ohio goes, so goes the election and all that. How many pro-Hilary folks would go the way of McCain if he chose a woman? Then they could vote for change even as they voted for what hey felt comfortable with, you know?

I'm not sure that it works as well in reverse: with the presidential nominee who's been stumping for "change" and then him bringing in he Old Guard Dude to lend him gravitas. Remember, this wasn't the configuration when George W. added Cheney to his ticket. He was up against Gore and Lieberman, who were basically of the same generation and experience level. Adding Cheney made Bush "safe" to vote for, and people wanted to have a beer with him already, and Bush was never running on "I'm going to be a historical agent of change" rhetoric.

Don't get me wrong: I'll be voting for Obama in November. I'm just skeptical about how it's all going to turn out, with the summer of moving to the center and the choice of Biden as the veep candidate. I'm hoping to become energized by the convention. I do love the conventions. I'd love to be energized and inspired.

I suppose the thing is, though, and this is why I voted for Clinton in my primary, I knew who she was and I knew that she was all about the political game as it has conventionally been played, and I respected the fact that she didn't pretend it was going to be anything other than politics as usual. I suppose I feel like Obama sucked in the left by pretending he was something different and that he's really just more of the same. He's a politician. He's done nothing but prove that throughout this summer and finally with this choice of running mate. He's going to do whatever it takes to get elected. Ultimately, this is better than if he wouldn't (because he wouldn't get elected if he wasn't willing to do that) but he pretended that he wasn't that guy, to get the left behind him. And however much I'm excited to get my free Obama-Biden sticker from, that pisses me off. I mean, dude, why pretend to be about change when you're about the status quo? Why pretend you're the candidate of change when you're the candidate of more of the same? Sure, he's young (though he's about the same age as Bill Clinton was when he ran in 1992), but so what? Young doesn't necessarily mean progressive or pro-choice or for-the-working-person. Saying a whole bunch of stuff about "change" doesn't necessarily mean shit.

Here's the thing. When Bill Clinton ran in 1992, it was the first presidential election that I was eligible to vote for. And he chose a running-mate who was a Washington insider in choosing Gore, but Gore was of Clinton's generation. And Gore was all about the environment and stuff, and well, it really did feel like a changing of the guard. But - and I feel like this is an important but - Clinton didn't pretend that he was above politics. He just asserted that he would be a different voice in Washington politics, which may have been pretense to some extent, but I found that less offensive than the pretense of "I'm a whole new person that you've never seen before," which has been Obama's thing. When Clinton ran, it was the first election where we didn't have WWII veterans running for president, and it was a big freaking deal. Dude, "Don't Stop Thinking about Tomorrow"! Fleetwood Mac, people! And it felt like they chose Fleetwood Mac for their theme song because they actually were fans! This was huge! Whatever we all came to think of Clinton later, or what we think about him now, or the problems that we had with Gore at the time because of Tipper's whole PMRC thing, the point is, they were about fresh blood in ways that were really important in 1992. (God, I feel ancient writing this. Insert some "these kids today!" and "I'll take that ball if it lands in my yard one more time!" sentiments here.)

Whatever "the Clintons" are or were, I did feel like we weren't rooked by them. Bill Clinton always advertised himself as a centrist, and Hilary Clinton never pretended that she was not about the political game. And whether I've always loved them (I haven't), I did always feel like they were who they were. Obama? I still don't feel like I know entirely what he's about, other than that he's about being president of the United States. I don't have a clear sense of his history, and I don't have a clear sense of much other than the fact that he's a good public speaker. And I'm in the audience of people - those highly educated bleeding-heart liberals - who is supposed to be most welcoming of him. Maybe it's because I'm not of the right class of origin, that I'm suspicious. Maybe it's just my personality. The point is, he has things to prove to me. He has to prove to me that he actually cares about the issues that I care about (the economy, women's issues, issues for working-class voters that cross those other two categories and exceed them). He has to prove to me that he's interested in more than getting the job. Obama supporters I know have pretty much told me I'm supposed to go read his books (though I've already read one, because a student wrote a paper on it) in order to "know" him. That's bullshit, people. Middle America isn't going to go read his books, and even if they were, it's ridiculous to think it's on them to do so. This is a job interview people. When you interview for a tenure-track job, you don't tell people to read your whole dissertation: you tell them the 2-minute or 5-minute version of it, in a way that is clear and concise and engaging and convincing. If he can't do that, what exactly can he do?

I'm sorry this is turning out to be an anti-Obama rant. I don't mean it to be. I actually really do support the democratic ticket. I just feel like my suspicions, that it was always going to be politics as usual, are totally confirmed. And it makes me angry. I wanted so much for that not to be true, when Obama got the nomination. At least if Clinton would have been nominated, I wouldn't have had this disappointment. It would have been politics as usual, but I wouldn't have any hopes that it would have been anything other than that.


YGL said...

I find it refreshing to hear someone speak of politics and not be completely ignoring their own personal issues with "their" choice in favor of bashing the other side... I know it happens - but I see too much of the "lets bash the other side and ignore our own side's problems"

(which is part of the reason that I'm an independent - I hate politicians in general... I always feel I am being torn between two evils in almost any election)

life_of_a_fool said...

The thing that bothers me about Obama supporters is that they seem to think he's *not* a politician. The whole change rhetoric is way too close to the line that "we'd rather have a beer with Bush than Kerry."

(I don't mean this as a dig at you -- and I like Obama. I just don't buy that he's not a politician and that he won't have to deal with all of the shit that any other politician has to deal with. To me, that's a stupid argument/campaign strategy anyway.)

Mamalooper said...

You put into words what I couldn't when I tried to describe to friends/colleagues why I supported Hillary over Obama back in the day. (And I am not even an American - Canadian here just v.v. hopeful of a democratic president down your way).

Somehow people still hope/believe that someone could become president without being part of the political game that is played at that level.

And the idea that McCain actually could have a chance is beyond frightening...

Anne said...

Hi, Crazy,

Here's the thing: I support Obama *because* I think he's a brilliant politician NOT because I think he's a messiah: I like the message control & discipline of the campaign.

There are 2 things about Hillary (well, many) that really worry me: 1) her inability to adequately explain her original war vote, 2) her massive financial and strategic management of her campaign--the whole sense of it being "her turn"--the whole entitlement thing, 2A) BILL Clinton--eek!--I love him and I hate him and he exhausts me and I just want him to go back to some former Soviet satellite province and bilk them for huge speaker's fees.

What impressed me so much yesterday was the way that Biden's rhetoric complements Obama's: he's plainspoken, working class, affable, joyful, a little unscripted.

I think your analysis is right and I do find the feminist points are well-taken and distressing, but I never found Hillary compelling as a feminist (and, as a Wellesley-Yale alum & 42, shouldn't I be a Hillary supporter? Chris Matthews is full of baloney.

So, in short, I'm *really* excited and very hopeful in spite of all the reasonable objections you raise.

This seven house meme is not going to die. I think it's McCain's macaca moment.

Also, voting w/Bush 95% of the time has the potential to breakthrough to many voters, minority women republicans notwithstanding.

(I owe you an email--your idea is great)

Belle said...

I just feel like my suspicions, that it was always going to be politics as usual, are totally confirmed. And it makes me angry. I wanted so much for that not to be true, when Obama got the nomination. At least if Clinton would have been nominated, I wouldn't have had this disappointment.

That's it. That's precisely how I feel. I'm disappointed that there's yet another white male on the ticket. When others rave about how different O is, I've been disappointed with his sameness. I hear his rhetoric, and am disappointed when people I admire are sucked into believing that it is more than rhetoric. I'll vote for them - because the idea of more Bush policy in a McCain admin is just too horrific and I'd rather lick the belly of a cockroach than vote Republican... but excited? No.

phd me said...

Yes. Crazy, you put into words exactly what I'm thinking and how I feel about the Obama campaign. It's more of the same and I'm not convinced there's any change lurking in there but, like Belle said, I'll vote Democrat despite my lack of excitement.

Anonymous said...

count me in. disappointed by the sameness in the midst of a rhetoric of newness.